Yasutake Tsuchida, 45
Senior director of design, Mazda Design America
Big break: Becoming chief designer of the fourth-generation Mazda3
When Yasutake Tsuchida was a child in Japan, his parents sold cars for the Mazda brand and his mother drove a Mazda 323, the predecessor to the Mazda3. Tsuchida’s fondness for the 323, along with other iconic Mazda vehicles such as the MX-5 Miata and the RX-7, inspired his career as a designer for the automaker.
The Mazda3 became what Tsuchida called his “destiny project” during more than two decades with the automaker. When he joined Mazda in 1998, Tsuchida was assigned to the design team for the first-generation Mazda3 as it transitioned from the 323 name.
His next big design project took him, and the brand, in a different direction. Tsuchida was the lead exterior designer of the 2006 Mazda CX-7, which combined the brand’s sports car DNA with a crossover body style.
“The resulting combination of form and design language transformed the CX-7’s larger proportions using a host of features to signify its sporty credentials, from a sleeker windshield rake angle to a more aggressive belt line and tapered cabin,” Tsuchida said. Those elements set the stage for the brand’s current crossover lineup.
Another project that would define the Mazda brand came to Tsuchida as the chief designer of the 2017 KAI Concept. The focus of the KAI, which can mean “vanguard” in Japanese, was to strip away extraneous design elements in favor of sensuous curves, Tsuchida said.
The concept, rendered as a hatchback, “featured muscular, solid proportions and its form was brought to life by a delicate flow of reflections over the body,” the designer said. “It helped set the tone for Mazda’s path to premium and evolved beautifully into the award-winning Mazda3.”
As chief designer of the 2019 Mazda3, Tsuchida was responsible for both interior and exterior styling of the fourth-generation vehicle, available as both a sedan and a hatchback. One of the challenges was replacing the character lines of the previous generation with a smooth body, while enhancing the vehicles’ sense of movement.
The Mazda3 was awarded World Car Design of the Year in 2020.
Tsuchida said the Mazda3 design project represents his highest accomplishment to date, given that he was responsible for the entire vehicle design and not just the exterior, overseeing a design team of more than 20.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Tsuchida said of redesigning an iconic car from his childhood.
— Laurence Iliff
Editor's note: A previous version of this story included an incorrect model year for the Mazda 3 Tsuchida was chief designer for.